Sunday, September 28, 2014

Relieving Stress

View image on Twitter
I'll admit that I've felt like doing this more than once!

They say that stress is resisting the urge to strangle someone who desperately needs it. Well, in this case there is a great stress release. It makes me feel good just to watch it. It's nice to see immediate justice meted out to ignorant meatheads. In front of a hundred thousand people no less.
It's nice to be strong.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tom Platz, Then and Now

I met Tom Platz for the first (and last) time in 1974 at the teenage national powerlifting championships in Erie, Pennsylvania. I placed 2nd in the lifting competition and Tom won the associated physique competition which I believe was called the teenage Mr. USA contest or something like that. We are the same age and both were 19 at the time. He learned to lift in the Detroit, Michigan area was first coached by Bob Morris, a weightlifting coach. You can certainly see that influence in Tom's squatting technique. He had an impressive looking physique for a teenager, but was no where near the size that he later reached. Over the years I saw his pictures in the various magazines as he rose to one of the stars of the bodybuilding world. It's no secret that he took advantage of whatever chemical enhancements were available. He was pretty open about his training and supplementation. Anyway, his career ran it's course and the last I knew, he was selling cars in Scottsdale, Az and weighs about 160 lb. after recovering from a heart attack. I do not mean this to be a negative or judgemental post. My purpose is just to point out that the massive size of the "bodybuilders" is unnatural and will run eventually it's course. We all make our choices and I hope the time of being big is worth it. If so, then more power to them. But it's important for young people to understand going in that the "bodybuilding" look is temporary and the sacrifices required to obtain that look have a cost.
Below is a video of Tom squatting in his prime. Also a recent picture and a video clip of him attending a recent Mr. Olympia extravaganza fully clothed and reliving the old days. It also shows the circus atmosphere that surrounds these gatherings. To each his own.

The results of heavy, high rep squatting and some "medicinal support".

Recent Picture of Tom. (on the right) You can't fool Mother Nature.

Another shot of Tom in his prime.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

More on Resistance Training for Women

This is how it's done!

Here is another article from a mainstream news site emphasizing the need for resistance training for women. Of course there is nothing new here. Just stuff we have known for years, however it is always good to see sound information out in the mainstream instead of all the marketing hype that we generally see. When it comes to training for women, there are no secrets, no magical special women's workout.  But in spite of the fact that so much good information is out there, it is often drowned in a sea of myths. This is a sound and simple review of some basics.

A majority of women spend their time in the gym focusing on cardio with little or no resistance training. However, resistance training or strength training is just as important if not more important for women as it is for men.

• Fight osteoporosis. The Centers for Disease Control reports that over 50 percent of post-menopausal women suffer from some degree of osteoporosis. This is because a change in the hormonal balance leads to the female body literally breaking down its own bone mass. If bone density is increased over a prolonged period before this, the risks of osteoporosis are greatly reduced. Resistance training does exactly that. Repeated use of muscles attached to bones through resistance training leads to thickening of the bone mass, which can delay and possibly avoid the onset of osteoporosis.

• Strength training reduces body fat. Cardiovascular exercise (running, walking, biking, elliptical training) burns fat, but not all the calories burned will be from fat. Some calories will be from carbohydrate, some from protein and typically, up to 50 percent from fat.

Conversely, resistance training places a much greater stress on the muscles and as a result, when you finish your workout your body begins to repair the microscopic damage that has occurred, leading to an increase in your metabolism while this process takes place. Studies have shown that this can last up to 36 hours after a resistance workout. If you add cardio to this resistance mix, you'll gain the benefits of both.

• Strength training significantly improves neuromuscular activity. Each muscle is made up of thousands of separate fibers, which are grouped together into bundles. Each bundle of these fibers are triggered by their own nerve. When lifting or moving a weight, your brain will initially only trigger the muscle bundles it thinks it needs. With regular resistance training, your brain and neural system will adapt and learn to recruit more muscle bundles with each movement. This leads to a much more effective use of the body's muscle tissue, and greatly reduces the risk of posture-related injuries and conditions.

• Training with resistance strengthens tendons providing joint support. The fibers in our muscles join to form tendons, which connect muscle to bone. This allows us to create movement. Resistance training develops both the muscle fibers and the muscle tendons. Where a tendon crosses a joint, this assists the ligaments in supporting the joint, reducing the chances of injury from a trip, slip or fall.

Aim to do resistance work within your exercise program 2 to 3 times a week. You can't afford not to.

— Angie Ferguson is an exercise physiologist from Fort Myers. She is a USA Triathlon Advanced Level 2 coach, USA Cycling coach and has a Specialty in Sports Nutrition certification. For more training tips, read her blog at www.triathlontrainingisfun.com or contact her at gearedup.biz.
Leave the baby weights for the Planet Fitness crowd.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Why do teen athletes need more muscle?

Teenagers thrive on the basics.

Below is an article that I ran across recently. The author makes an argument for training teenagers. While I might state some things differently and I would certainly program differently, there is also much that I can support in what he says. I do not agree that speed and agility are only 20% of the way to reaching a high level of performance, but I do agree that strength is the foundation of both speed and power. I also agree that high school age athletes, male and female, do best on a few basic multi-joint exercises. Of course this is not new or innovative. Smart coaches have known this since at least the 1960's and I am sure before that. (though I was not around to confirm it.) In 2014 every college and university has extensive training facilities and programs. At the high school level, as well, it is a rare school now that does not have a weight room of some sort ranging from amazing to dangerous. The downside though, is that there are no enforceable standards of what is a reasonable or effective program and, of course that leaves it wide open for a variety of programs and methods, some of which are effective and some that qualify as malpractice.

As a strength and conditioning coach, and trainer who has been working in the fitness field for many years, I can sometimes overlook some of the basic principles when discussing my training philosophy with parents or athletes. I’ve realized one of the most overlooked topics is muscle and why it’s needed, how to get it, and how much to build.

Once an athlete gets to the age of hormonal change, or puberty, there is a prime environment for muscle growth and strength gain. This crucial hormonal window (usually ages 14 to 18) must be taken advantage of in the most efficient way possible. But the question remains: why should more muscle and more strength be the number one training goal for these high school athletes?

First, more muscle means more force production. Force production is a way of saying strength. When you increase the size of a muscle, it is able to contract with more efficiency and use more muscle fibers to complete the contraction, thus producing more force (strength). In almost every example, more muscle on an athlete results in more strength, and more power (when trained properly), as the athlete can generate many more pounds of force with that additional 20 to 50 pounds of extra muscle mass on the skeletal frame.

Second, speed and agility work will only take an athlete around 20 percent of the way. And that is probably an overestimation. If all an athlete has done in his or her training career is sprints, sprint drills, cone drills, and footwork, then his or her ability to produce force is extremely limited. This type of athlete is primed for more power and explosion after a 6 to 12 month program of muscle and strength gain. Strength and muscle is the underlying common denominator amongst all upper echelon athletes of sports that require strength and muscle (football, wrestling, baseball, softball, basketball, hockey, volleyball, gymnastics) to excel. So why not start training for it when an athlete is 14 or 15 years old? Let’s move away from excessive speed work and start doing what has always worked: building strength and muscle.

Hopefully, I have presented a solid argument for the idea that more muscle is beneficial to a teen athlete. The next question that comes to mind is, how does a teen athlete build this muscle. I have covered this in great detail in the last two articles, but it basically comes down to calories, basic strength exercises and constant progression. Many calories need to be consumed in order to help a teenager with a roaring metabolism gain weight. Also, heavy strength training on these movements should be performed:

Trap bar deadlifts
Barbell squats
Clean and presses
Power cleans or high pulls
Pull ups
These are the exercises that always have and always will help to add mountains of muscle onto a skinny frame, with the concepts of constant progressive overload (adding weight to the bar all the time) and high calories added in.

As far as how much muscle to build? The average Major League Baseball player is 73.5” and 190 pounds. The average National Hockey League athlete is 73.3” and 204 pounds. The National Football League has many varying positions that require different body frames making it difficult to get an average. Basically, we can make a realistic goal to get a teenage athlete in a certain sport up to the average weight of a professional for that sport, and produce as much strength and power in the process. This will give this high school athlete the very best chance to hit the ball farther, run faster, and be more explosive. It could mean the difference between playing on first string or second string, and receiving a college scholarship or not receiving a college scholarship.

And while these height and weight numbers represent male athletes, females need not be excluded from this discussion. Female athletes do not have the necessary hormonal environment to pack on many pounds of muscle tissue (not nearly as much as men). However, they greatly benefit from adding muscle tissue as well. Female athletes need to understand that strong is the new skinny, and to have a strong, muscular, feminine physique, through proper muscle and strength building, will greatly enhance their athletic careers and help prevent injuries.

The Takeaway: Why not give a teenage athlete every opportunity to be as explosive as he or she can possibly be? If they are serious about taking their play to the next level, then it might be time to give real consideration to muscle and strength gain – it just might extend their career four years or beyond.

Matt Gallagher is the Fitness Director at MFC Sports Performance in Darien, which specializes in functional training for both adults and younger athletes. You can reach Matt by emailing him at Matt@MFCSportsPerformance.com
It goes without saying that Teen girls thrive on the basics as well.
Not to mention kids too!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

More Costs of Obesity and Inactivity

The exercise habit starts young!

It's no secret that inactivity and obesity go hand in hand just like obesity and diabetes or obesity and heart disease, or obesity and sleep apnea......on and on. The article below claims that in the United States we spend over $190 billion annually on on obesity related medical expenses. Is it any wonder that insurance rates are so high? The saddest fact is that it is almost entirely preventable. But, as the article points out, we are heading in the wrong direction with more and more of our youngsters growing up with an inactive lifestyle. This is especially frustrating when the politicians try to fix our public education system by requiring more and more seat time and cutting more and more physical activity classes. It's too bad that kids are not more active at home, but in this economy of both parents working for wages, too many kids grow up with a television as a babysitter.
Can you imagine the future if these trends continue? It's amazing to me that a government incentive program to encourage some movement is being considered. It seems we really have a problem when you have to pay people to act in their own best interest instead of self-destructing. When are we going to start paying people to not smoke or drink? Anyway, time will show how well this all works out.
If you are reading this, you are probably a physically active warrior type. Please do your part to stand up for and encourage physical strength and activity, especially with our children. Be a role model and an encourager. Show them that physical activity is it's own reward. Our future and their's depends on it.

The inactivity and obesity epidemic is upon us. A recent study by Sports Marketing Surveys, Inc., shows the percentage of Americans who are totally sedentary increased from 25 percent in 2007 to 28 percent in 2012 with the largest increase in inactivity being among children. This number is projected to balloon to more than 31 percent by 2018 and will represent a painful $28 billion reduction in sports and fitness retail consumption alone. Add this to the more than $190 billion already spent annually in the United States on obesity-related medical expenses and it is clear this is an issue we can no longer ignore.

Researchers from Stanford recently released a study that suggests this inactivity trend has developed over the past two decades. Through an analysis of national health surveys from 1988 to 2010, they found that while there was no significant change in the overall number of calories consumed, there were huge increases in both obesity and inactivity rates.

Now is the time for the sports industry work to reverse these dangerous and expensive trends. In order to make an impact on a national level, Americans must be encouraged to support two key pieces of legislation that combat the sedentary crisis: the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act and the PEP Program.

The PHIT Act would allow Americans to use pre-tax medical accounts for physical activity expenses, such as health club memberships and dues for youth and adult sports leagues. This would give Americans a direct financial incentive to get off the couch and be active.

The PHIT Act bill was scored this month by the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, which estimated that if the initiative was passed, Americans would invest approximately $2.5 billion in activity-related expenses over the next 10 years. The bill currently has broad bipartisan support with 22 Republican and 21 Democrat co-sponsors.

For the last 13 years, the PEP Program has been awarding millions of dollars in grants from the U.S Department of Education to schools and community organizations working to rebuild our physical education (PE) curriculum. Grants are utilized for equipment, support and training teachers and staff. PEP has spawned a “new PE,” in which new technologies such as heart-rate monitors and activity trackers are used to encourage healthy habits and spark a lifelong commitment to fitness.


Jim Baugh is a Sporting Goods Hall of Fame inductee and a 40 year industry veteran. In 2013 he founded PHIT America, a non-profit advocacy organization focused on overcoming the inactivity pandemic and creating a “Movement for a Fit & Healthy America.”

Here's the future unless we do something about it!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Even kids can lift weights! What is your excuse?

I love this video. It gets a little monotonous in the middle with a few solid minutes of kettlebell swings. But still, if you are a hardcore fitness/lifting enthusiast who works with youth like myself, you will find it interesting. It shows kids and youth from around the world lifting in various ways. Personally I am not a big fan of sumo style deadlifting and I'm not sure I would teach a youngster to sumo deadlift, I would prefer a youngster learn to lift off the floor with the standard flatbacked full-range pulling motion. But I don't know enough of the backround in this instance to make a judgement, so I won't. Maybe there is a legitimate reason this girl is using the sumo style. I am really impressed by some of the snatch technique demonstrated. I believe that kids can and should lift so long as they do it with great technique. I do not like to see kids straining and twisting to grind up weights. I think they can lift as heavy as is possible with great technique. When the back begins to round out or the knees turn in...etc., then it's too heavy for a youngster. The kettlebell competitions are fascinating to me as we don't have anything quite like that (that I know of) in the United States. If you persist through the entire video the end is fun.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

5 Reasons You Don't Look Like You Lift

Dan winning at a  highland games

Below is another great article by Dan John that I took off of the T-Nation website. Dan is the real thing in the iron sports. He has been a champion in weightlifting, discus, and highland games for starters. He is also a great coach and writer as well. He does most of his training in his garage and/or outside. His trianing is basic, varied, and obviously effective. We met years ago in Utah and I have always admired his ability to make great training sense in an interesting and humorous way. My experiences are in full agreement with Dan's points below........

5 Reasons You Don't Look Like You Lift
by Dan John 

Here's what you need to know...
-Some people spend so much time doing fancy warm-ups they forget to lift something heavy and break a sweat.
-Start a program and finish it. Stop program hopping.
-The basics are going to get you there the fastest. Squat deep, bench without the butt leaving the bench, and deadlift double bodyweight (at least).
-Don't let your diet undo all the work you put in at the gym. You can't "out-cardio" a crappy diet.
-Take advantage of your rest periods by doing something more productive than texting or finding a new song.
-There are plenty of things you can do wrong in your training, but if we could get people to fix these problems, the world would be a stronger, fitter place.

1. You're Forgetting To Actually Train

A timer goes off the moment you enter the gym. Think of it as one of those countdown clocks on an explosive device in an action movie. Each of us has a different total amount of time programmed in, but regardless it starts when you walk in.

What you do in the first ten minutes of training will tell me just about everything I need to know about what you do right and what you do wrong. I used to tell people to front squat first. This is still good advice, but I was hoping that a hint of urgency would ignite some people to think about the importance of getting into the gym and going to work.

With this new era of corrective work, I see people writhing on the walls with lacrosse balls against their spine, flailing on the floor with foam rollers, and following a packaged program guaranteed to realign their Virgo across Scorpio. Then, twenty minutes of easy treadmilling, some dynamic mobility, and let's finish with some stable stability or whatever.

One hour after entering the gym you can proudly acknowledge that you did practically nothing. And then it's time to go.

In addition to the countdown clock, think of your gym time as a sandbag. As we enter, we cut a small hole in our ability to train and the sand starts pouring out. When empty, we have nothing left. In other words, if we waste all that "sand" doing silly stuff, there's no sand left over for the stuff that actually makes you stronger, fitter, or a better athlete. This isn't saying some of those tools aren't useful, but do you need all of them, at once, before every workout?

Many of us are tricking ourselves into thinking that we're training when really we're just wandering in off the street and wasting time. Stop it.

2. You Have Workout ADD

The fix for problem #1 is to follow a program. I have one rule regarding programs: I don't care what program you're doing, just finish it. Start it and finish it.

I have a program called Mass Made Simple. Fourteen workouts over six weeks. I ask you to give up two to three hours of your time each week to lift, press, and squat until you can squat bodyweight for fifty reps. Start it, finish it.

Maybe mass isn't your issue right now, but what is? And don't say "fat loss" either, as the bulk of people training (ha, bulk!) will give that answer. The trouble is, even though they're presumably focusing on fat loss, they rarely make any progress.

Why not focus on something else and see if fat loss drops along with improving some other quality? Most programs are about six weeks long, so if it's a disaster, it's only six weeks out of your life. If you've been training for ten years, how many six-week periods are there in your training history? Never mind, I'll answer for you: about 86.

Can you stand to build a better butt from hip thrusts and squatting? Do you need to improve a single weak lift, usually squats or deadlifts? Nearly every day, T Nation provides you with programs. Pick one and follow it.

Show up to the gym with your workout in hand. Have it printed out and folded into your journal. Follow it. Finish it.


Strive for mastery while you train. I know you think you're impressing the girls by loading up the leg press and slamming the weights up and down over and over. Want to know what they really think of this? I asked them. They think you're an asshole.

Learn to lift correctly. Master squatting deeply and appropriately. Today, it's easy to find clinics and workshops from the best and brightest on how to live and move better. In a typical city, there are often several competing workshops on any given weekend.

Your job is to squat deep, bench without the butt leaving the bench, and deadlift double bodyweight (at least). The basics are going to get you there the fastest. And, as a reward, you will be bigger, leaner, and stronger.

4. Your Diet Is "Undoing" Your Training

You can't out-cardio countless grams of crappy carbs. I know that vegetables, fruits, and quality protein are more expensive than wheat and corn products, but cows get fat by grazing on the grain. Don't be a cow.

There are 168 hours in a week. If you train during five of them, that leaves 163 hours to possibly undo anything you achieved in the gym, so how about giving at least a passing nod to eating right? I suggest that learning the basics of cooking – as simple as learning to use a knife, a slow cooker, and a grill, along with some proactive shopping – will do as much for you as the next great "secret" training protocol.

5. You're Wasting Your Rest Periods

Reconsider your definition of "rest." Personally, I never time rest periods and try to use the time between lifts to do my mobility work, my flexibility work, and my correctives.

The problem with gyms today, among other things, is that there are multiple televisions affixed to the walls. Add to that your magical super phone and the dozens of other things that distract us from training. Listen, when you're in the gym, train.

Bonus Suggestions

Take the towel off our neck, Rocky.
There's no reason – ever – for a headband or doo-rag (more like a "don't rag." Oh snap!)
Wipe off any bench or pad after you use it.
Put away the weights, even if you didn't leave them lying there.
Squat in the squat racks. Nothing else.
Don't scream when doing something that's causing a burn... unless you're literally on fire.
If you're going to wear a tank top, look more like a tank and less like a tool.
Be nice to the staff.

Learn to squat deep. Nothing gives you more gym cred than a deep, appropriate squat.
Winning at weightlifting

And a discus champion

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Is This Necessary?

Here is something I ran across recently. Another "training innovation". I'll admit that basketball is my least favorite sport and that the NBA and Kobe Bryant represent just about everything I don't like about basketball. So, I may be negatively prejudiced towards this "innovation". But I have a hard time seeing this being more effective than the standard foot work and agility drills done under the watchful eyes of a good coach. I also have a hard time seeing how an athlete looking down at the floor can gain anything that can be gained by playing basketball and focusing on the game. I suspect this is an expensive toy that will be discarded before it spreads very far. At least I hope so.Can you imagine colleges wowing recruits with the best LED floor graphics? Practices would be like living inside of a computer game.

When it comes to basketball, there’s more to the game than just being able to dribble and shoot accurately. It also involves players being able to move around the court accurately, block other players, be in position to receive passes, and so on. Now thanks to a new project led by Nike, they have created a basketball court embedded with LEDs that has the ability to interact with players as they move across the surface.
The project is part of the company’s Nike RISE campaign over in China and has been designed with training programs and drills for players to follow. It will also be able to respond to movements and mistakes made by players, so that they will know what they have done wrong and be notified via visual cues.
To demonstrate the court in action, Nike brought in basketball superstar, Kobe Bryant, where he coached 30 young Chinese players. However it seems that despite being such a veteran on the courts, the hi-tech court managed to throw Bryant off a little bit. Speaking to Lakers Nation, Bryant was quoted as saying, “My first experience on the LED floor, it’s pretty uhhh … I didn’t even know that was possible. It’s amazing what can be done nowadays. I think the potential and possibilities for the floor are endless.”
We’re not sure if such a court will ever become mainstream, since we can only imagine it will be expensive to produce and maintain, but it’s still a pretty awesome idea and you can check it out in action in the video above.